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Nielsen Study Confirms: Yes, Tweets Do Drive Tune-In

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A new study by Nielsen and SocialGuide has confirmed something many of us in social media have long held sacred: Twitter is kind of a big deal when it comes to television marketing.

It should come as no surprise that the more people that are talking about a show, the more likely its ratings are to go up. What is rather surprising, however, is the magnitude of this impact: the study found that social buzz matters as much as previous season ratings and ad spend.

According to this study, an 8.5 percent increase in Twitter volume among 18-34 year olds or a 14 percent increase among 35-49 year olds nets out a 1 percent increase in TV premiere ratings. Moreover, this correlation increases throughout the season, with Twitter accounting for an even larger variance in midseason ratings, higher than even advertising spend. And Twitter itself is taking an interest in the major impact that television is having on online conversation with its recent acquisition of Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company.

360i client USA Network recently found out just how successful an almost entirely social campaign can be with its PSYCH Slumber Party, an all-night episode marathon that led to record network numbers, both in social engagement and in ratings. This successful activation built momentum that led to huge numbers for the Season 7 premiere of Psych, with hashtags such as #Psychisback receiving over 25,000 uses (up 200 percent from the Season 6.5 finale) and ratings that saw a 22 percent increase in comparison to the February 2012 season premiere.

One month following the premiere, Psych celebrated its 100th episode by featuring a fan-chosen ending for both the East and West Coast original airings. Voting was driven by hashtags submitted via USA Sync, USANetwork.com, @Psych_USA on Twitter and through partnering social platforms such as GetGlue, Viggle and Shazam. With 150,000+ votes pouring in, the episode netted more than 165,000 social mentions at a rate of nearly one tweet per second. The chatter led to 13 trending topics for Psych — and the massive social buzz helped drive ratings highs that rivaled the season premiere (and that were 37 percent higher than the previous week’s episode).

And it’s not just USA, networks across the spectrum are starting to understand the underlying value of driving visibility through social chatter and trending topics, crafting entire strategies around second screens and allowing shows with lower ratings but high social visibility a chance to breathe; see Wired’s recent article “The Nielsen Family is Dead,” for more thoughts on that.

For years, we have been talking with entertainment brands about how crucial it is to be a part of the conversation. Studies like these confirm that all of the live tweeting and fan and influencer outreach is worth the time and resources – not just from a loyalty or relationship standpoint, but from a tune-in standpoint as well.

The big question that still remains: what does one do with this information? Certainly not every show has a fan base as vocal as Psych’s, or enough on-air action to support live creation of content. However, small activations can pay off in dividends.

Entertainment brands have two advantages: (1) they can safely assume that fans are usually already on their side when they like their Facebook page or follow their Twitter account, and (2) word of mouth is key in determining cultural taste. Brands can take advantage of these factors and rally their fans into evangelists for the show.

Finding key influencers from far and wide, and building meaningful relationships with them, will support programming and engage viewers. And for what it’s worth, brands should live tweet and respond to fans whenever possible. Fans love to feel connected, and the engagement ramps up exponentially in a field such as entertainment, which has an aura of glamour. It humanizes something seemingly unreachable, and in doing so, wins people over every time.

Cover photo via VentureBeat